It was Valentine’s Day.
Jacinda Ardern was on the television standing next to Dr Ashley Bloomfield in the Beehive Theatrette, while Tarquin was strapped to his gaming rig, mouse in one hand and Monster in the other. Mum was updating her Fleets with a Snapchat-filtered selfie, and Dad was god-knows-where because he was “wacky old dad” and that was his main role.
Tarquin supposed that Dad had taken himself off to his man-cave to watch the announcement in peace and quiet, but also so that he could openly swear at the government. Dad knew the news was going to be bad.
And it was. Each word hit Dad’s ears like a hammer blow. AS OF 11:59 TONIGHT. AUCKLAND WILL MOVE TO ALERT LEVEL THREE.
It was inevitable, but Dad was still well-pissed. His main axe to grind was this ‘being kind’ crap the government kept peddling. Be kind my arse! How about faster broadband?
Tarquin stretched and yawned. He checked his Fitbit which showed the miraculous statistic of 2,000 steps. Oh well, he thought. Another three days off wasn’t so bad, and he could still chat online with his girlfriend who was literally in a different city, even though his friends didn’t believe that she even existed.
Dad emerged from the man-cave. He’d pre-emptively set up his workstation, comprised of a laptop, printer and a fax machine, just in case. Juuust in case.
During the Y2K thing, the fax was going full-tit right up until midnight, and Dad knew that while people laughed at him, the fax was one of the most effective forms of communication ever invented.
The worst thing about this iteration of lockdown though was the glass containers. Mum had tirelessly entered each supermarket purchase into Excel, and apportioned the cost of that purchase against the real cost of a glass fridge container, if she was having to buy one in real life, and figured that with the effort involved, petrol, getting Dad to carry the wretched reusable bags, it was STILL worth pursuing and chasing up the outstanding containers (that Countdown claimed were sitting at the Ports of Auckland), but Susan in the Facebook community group for Glen Innes Heights was saying that she knew they were actually still “on a boat out on the water”. To be told people couldn’t redeem the stickers at all was another nail in the coffin of the 2020-2021 period.
Lockdown was about to become really tough for Tarquin, what with the stickers, Covid-19 tapping on the glass of the newly-installed French sliding doors, and now Valentine’s Day plans ruined.
He enabled a chat window with his girlfriend, who to be fair, he’d had very little to do with on a face-to-face basis but he still loved her deeply, and was stoked that she was interested in listening to his ideas about how the MoH could be dealing with this crisis a little better and how his NCEA credits better not be in jeopardy.
Dad had returned from the supermarket and brought a dark cloud back with him, and Mum busily prepared the fixings for the viral tomato and feta bake that had been doing the rounds on TikTok.
Ultimately, Mum explained, lockdown was what you made of it, but in reality, three lockdowns in, the whole family was sick of the sight of each other. And now, the broadband had shat itself, right when it was needed most.
Tubby the cat took advantage of the distraction and licked the scotch fillet left thawing on the bench while Dad, on all fours, fucked around with the landline connection. So much for the rollout of good quality broadband for all families by the Labour government, he thought.
A full 24 hours later, the broadband was still out and the provider was being a complete jerk, not even supplying Tarquin with a mobile data option in which to play CoD nor be able to FaceTime his girlfriend.
There was only one option left. Tarquin stole away into Dad’s den and fetched a clean sheet of A4. What he wrote on it we’ll never truly know. We know it was probably written in uppercase with at least three typos though.
An hour later a screech sound permeated the house. Tubby dived under the occasional chair, as Tarquin ran in socked feet to the den. From the fax machine a long, warm piece of thermal paper oozed out of the slot of destiny into his sweaty, expectant palms. It contained four words:
I LOVE YOU TARQUIN
Tarquin pretty much pashed the fax machine and repeated the words on the thermal paper back to it, but it soon went into rest mode, waiting patiently for another fax job, not expected in reality to arrive in this millennium.
All was well in Tarquin’s world. This was the best lockdown ever, with measurable results that he could probably use for his stats internal assessment.